U.S. far-right nationalist President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem disregard Israel's occupation of East Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel and beginning the process of relocating the U.S. embassy there has prompted the Palestinian Authority to accuse America of withdrawing from its role in the peace process.
America's leader appeared further isolated, as allies and foes alike denounced his decision and Palestinians questioned whether their dream of statehood, as part of a peace deal brokered by Washington, was still possible.
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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Trump's "deplorable and unacceptable" move signified America's withdrawal as a sponsor of the peace process.
Hamas -- the Palestinian Islamist movement that runs the Gaza Strip -- warned that Trump had opened "the gates of hell on US interests in the region."
And although welcomed by Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a "courageous and just decision," Trump's move left many angry US allies struggling to find a measured response -- and hoping that the tinderbox region is not destined for yet another round of bloodletting.
Through gritted teeth, Britain described the move as "unhelpful" and France called it "regrettable." Germany said plainly that it "does not support" Trump's decision.
Eight countries including Britain, France and Italy pressed for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council in response to the move, which was set for Friday.
The leaders of Muslim nations meanwhile deployed ever-harsher rhetoric to describe Trump's decision.
Turkey and Iran -- both vying for regional influence -- tried to give voice to the anger felt by many across the Muslim world.
Turkey called the decision "irresponsible" and illegal. Iran said it would "provoke Muslims and inflame a new intifada."
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia branded the move "unjustified and irresponsible" -- and said it goes against the "historical and permanent rights of the Palestinian people."
- Diplomatic fallout -
Trump also kicked off the process of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
In doing so, he begins to make good on a campaign promise dear to evangelical Christian and right-wing Jewish voters -- as well as donors.
Trump's predecessors -- from Bill Clinton to George Bush -- had made the same promise, but quickly reneged upon taking office and assuming responsibility for war and peace.
The 45th US president was determined to show his arrival in Washington spells the end of business as usual, suggesting his predecessors failed to act though lack of "courage."
Moving the embassy will probably take years to implement, but the repercussions of Trump's decision preceded even his announcement.
Hundreds of Palestinians burned US and Israeli flags as well as pictures of Trump in the Gaza Strip, while relatively small clashes erupted near the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron.
The Palestine Liberation Organization announced a strike across the West Bank Thursday, while Hamas called for a "day of rage" on Friday.
US government officials and their families were ordered to avoid Jerusalem's Old City and the West Bank, though the situation remained largely calm up until Trump's address.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on a visit to Germany, said the United States had "implemented robust security plans to protect the safety of Americans in affected regions."
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the main pan-Islamic body, in Istanbul next week to display joint action over Jerusalem.
Jordan and the Palestinians also requested an emergency meeting of the Arab League.
Most of the international community does not formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, insisting the issue can only be resolved in negotiations -- a point reiterated by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in the wake of Trump's decision.
Guterres implicitly criticized Trump, stressing his opposition to "any unilateral measures that would jeopardize the prospect of peace."
Trump insisted the move did not prejudge final talks, saying it simply reflected the reality that west Jerusalem is and will continue to be part of Israel under any settlement.
"This is nothing more or less than a recognition of reality. It is also the right thing to do," Trump said.
"Peace is never beyond the grasp of those willing to reach it," said the US leader, who declared that "this decision is not intended in any way to reflect a departure from our strong commitment to facilitate a lasting peace."
Israel seized the largely Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem during the 1967 Six-Day War and later annexed it, claiming both sides of the city as its capital.
The Palestinians want the eastern sector as the capital of their future state.
Several peace plans have unravelled in the past decades over the issue of how to divide sovereignty or oversee holy sites in Jerusalem.
Hamas urged Palestinians to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel
Hamas urged Palestinians on Thursday to abandon peace efforts and launch a new uprising against Israel in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as its capital.
Palestinian factions called for a “Day of Rage” on Friday, and on Thursday a wave of protest in the West Bank and Gaza brought clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops. At least 31 people were wounded by Israeli gunfire and rubber bullets, medics said.
The Israeli military said on Thursday evening two rockets had been fired towards Israel from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, but did not cross into Israeli territory.
The military said it was reinforcing troops in the occupied West Bank.
Medics said 11 people had been hit by live bullets and 20 by rubber bullets in the Thursday unrest. One was in a critical condition. Some protesters threw rocks at soldiers and others chanted: “Death to America! Death to the fool Trump!”
Trump reversed decades of U.S. policy on Wednesday by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, angering the Arab world and upsetting Western allies.
The status of Jerusalem - home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions - is one of the biggest obstacles to a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
“We should call for and we should work on launching an intifada (Palestinian uprising) in the face of the Zionist enemy,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a speech in Gaza.
On Friday’s “Day of Rage”, rallies and protests are expected near Israeli-controlled checkpoints in the West Bank and along the border with Gaza.
Friday prayers at the Muslim shrine of Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem could also be a flashpoint.
Naser Al-Qidwa, an aide to Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and senior official in his Fatah party, urged Palestinians to stage protests but said they should be peaceful.
Abbas on Thursday met Jordan’s King Abdullah, whose dynasty is traditional custodian of Jerusalem’s holy places. Jordan is a staunch U.S. ally but has dismissed Trump’s move as “legally null”.
Palestinian news agency Wafa said Abbas updated the king on “the imminent dangers in light of the decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the occupation state, and the mechanism of future steps to protect the holy city”.
Israel considers Jerusalem its eternal and indivisible capital. Palestinians want the capital of an independent state of their own to be in the city’s eastern sector, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war and annexed in a move never recognized internationally.
Trump announced his administration would begin a process of moving the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a step expected to take years, a move his predecessors opted not to take to avoid inflaming tensions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed Trump’s announcement as a “historic landmark” and said many countries would follow the U.S. move and contacts were under way. He did not name the countries.
“President Trump has immortalized himself in the chronicles of our capital. His name will now be held aloft, alongside other names connected to the glorious history of Jerusalem and of our people,” he said in a speech at Israel’s Foreign Ministry.
Other close Western allies of Washington, including France and Britain, have been critical of Trump’s move. Pope Francis has called for Jerusalem’s status quo to be respected, while China and Russia have expressed concern.
The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said: “The European Union has a clear and united position. We believe the only realistic solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine is based on two states and with Jerusalem as the capital of both.”
The United Nations Security Council is likely to meet on Friday to discuss the U.S. decision, diplomats said.
Trump’s decision has raised doubts about his administration’s ability to follow through on a peace effort that his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, has led for months aimed at reviving long-stalled negotiations.
Haniyeh called on Abbas to withdraw from peacemaking with Israel and on Arabs to boycott the Trump administration. Abbas said on Wednesday the United States had abdicated its role as a mediator in peace efforts.
“We have given instruction to all Hamas members and to all its wings to be fully ready for any new instructions or orders that may be given to confront this strategic danger that threatens Jerusalem and threatens Palestine,” Haniyeh said.
Israel and the United States consider Hamas, which has fought three wars with Israel since 2007, a terrorist organization. Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and its suicide bombings helped spearhead the last intifada, from 2000 to 2005.
Fearing disruption to reconciliation efforts between Hamas and Fatah, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah and other Fatah delegates arrived in Gaza on Thursday to meet Hamas.
The international community does not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the whole of Jerusalem and no other country has its embassy there.
Trump’s decision fulfils a campaign promise and will please Republican conservatives and evangelicals.
He said his move was not intended to tip the scales in favor of Israel and that any deal involving the future of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated by the parties, but the move was seen almost uniformly in Arab capitals as a sharp tilt towards Israel.
The United States is asking Israel to temper its response to the announcement because Washington expects a backlash and is weighing the potential threat to U.S. facilities and people, according to a State Department document seen by Reuters.
“The president has directed me and the State Department to undertake the process to begin an effort to move the embassy,” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in Vienna.
“This is not something that will happen overnight.”
In Lebanon, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah backed calls for a new intafada and said: “We are facing blatant American aggression.”
Islamist militant group Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula said Trump’s decision was the result of “normalization steps” between some Gulf Arab countries and Israel.
“It is also a clear challenge to the Muslim world,” the Yemen-based group said.
Protests have broken out since Trump’s announcement in Jordan, outside the U.S. consulate in Istanbul and in Pakistan.
Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan said the United States was “exposing its colonial ambition in Muslim territory”.
Palestinians switched off Christmas lights on trees outside Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born, and in Ramallah, next to the burial site of former Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, in protest.
Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi in Kabul, Kay Johnson in Islamabad, Ellen Francis in Beirut and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Editing by Janet Lawrence and Andrew Roche